Olivia Burt Death: Durham Club Owners Broke the Law, Jury Finds

The owners of a nightclub have been found guilty of breaking safety laws over the death of a student who was crushed as she queued to get in.

Olivia Burt, 20, suffered head injuries when a decorative barrier fell on her at Missoula in Durham in February 2018.

The UK’s biggest pub chain, Stonegate, now faces a fine for its breach of health and safety legislation.

Teesside Crown Court had heard the first-year student’s death was “senseless and avoidable”.

Crowds had gathered outside the venue on a Wednesday evening as students waited to enter, jurors were told.

Jamie Hill KC, summarising the prosecution case brought by Durham County Council, said security staff could have moved the crowd away and told them there would be a delay in getting in but, instead, “they just queued them up and let the numbers swell”.

The screen which fatally injured Miss Burt, from Milford on Sea, Hampshire, had first fallen shortly after 23:15 BST and was lifted back into place, the court heard.

Half an hour later some students were leaning against the barrier when Miss Burt fell through a panel, then a section of the screen gave way and people toppled over it.

Her head hit the pavement and “the metal bar of the screen with the weight of other customers landed on her head”, the trial heard.

Judge Howard Crowson will hear statements from Miss Burt’s family later and be given an assessment of costs before he sets the fine.

He thanked the jury for the “heavy burden” they took on in deciding the three-week case.

On Tuesday, he had directed the jury to clear Stonegate Pub Company on three other charges relating to the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Durham County Council’s head of legal and democratic services, Helen Lynch, said it had been a “particularly difficult and lengthy process” for Miss Burt’s family.

“We are pleased with today’s outcome and hope it goes some way towards providing justice for Olivia and her family,” she said.